How to prevent data overage charges

Posted by Laura N on

tips on how to prevent internet data overage charges

Have you received a nasty surprise on your bill for your mobile phone or from your internet service provider (ISP) for exceeding your data allotment? Some companies will give you a warning, some won’t. Some will give you a couple of overages for free, others start taking your cash right away.

There are a few things you can do to help manage your bandwidth usage.

Track your bandwidth usage

You should have access to how much bandwidth you’ve used if you log into your account on your ISP’s website. If you have multiple machines running Windows, you can use NetWorx to monitor their usage. 

Comcast seems to have an automated system as you approach and exceed your bandwidth allotment and they will email, call and text you alerts.

email from comcast xfinity about internet data overage


How to reduce the video quality in Netflix streaming 

Log into your account:

Go to playback settings:

And then select a lower quality playback setting:

how to reduce video playback quality in netflix

To reduce the video playback quality for YouTube, change the selection from "Always choose the best quality for my connection and player size" to "I have a slow connection. Never play higher-quality video."

How to reduce the video playback quality for YouTube

Music streaming

In Spotify, to lower the audio streaming quality, go to preferences, playback and uncheck “high quality streaming.”

how to change streaming quality in spotify

And here are the instructions for Pandora and Google Play.

Turn off automatic software updates and downloads

In Mac OS, go to system preferences and click on App Store. Make sure "Download newly available updates in the background" and "Automatically download apps purchased on other Macs" are unchecked.

turn off automatic updates in Mac OS

Here’s what you do to turn off automatic updates in Windows 8.1.


While tethering to your mobile phone, you may want to be extra conservative and not allow Flash animations to load automatically. There are browser plug-ins that can help with that. Add click to play plug-ins to Chrome or Firefox  

PC World has a nice article on how to limit PC’s data usage while tethering for Windows users 

No tethering plan, no problem with the Fox-Fi app (Android) 

We don’t endorse this plan specifically and the deal could go away at any time, but T-Mobile has unlimited data plan that sounds pretty reasonable if you’re shopping around 

Upgrade your plan

Some of us occasionally go over our bandwidth cap, and some of us consistently blow by it. If you are practicing as much bandwidth conservation as you’re comfortable with and you’re still paying for overages, maybe it’s time to upgrade your plan. In the long run, it’ll probably be cheaper than overage charges.

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